October 11, 2003

Wilful Defiance

It's no secret that I'm opposed to nearly everything that George "W" says and does. America was once my home, but from my view here in Canada I hardly recognize the "land of the free" any more. It seems that every day I hear another tale of the American government treading on the rights and freedoms of its citizens. (The latest ...an entire neighborhood displaced by the federal gov't so that a Walmart can be built where their homes once stood. A %&&#$ WALMART...now there's your tax dollars in action. eminent domain at it's worst.


I was doing some research on WWI the other day and found an 'open letter' written by a British soldier in the London Times. In light of the War on Iraq, the words seem particularly poinant. I have heard that US soldiers who are on leave from their duties in Iraq are calling to ask: "what's the worst that could happen to me if I didn't go back?"

Second Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in France and in Palestine. His actions in getting his dead and wounded men back to the British trenches earned him a Military Cross. He was wounded twice. On convalescent leave after being wounded in the shoulder Sassoon wrote his Declaration of "wilful defiance"

Here are his words:

"I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects witch actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerity's for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise."

S. Sassoon,

(Open Letter, published in The Times newspaper, 31 July 1917)

October 01, 2003

Picking Apples

I went apple picking a couple of weeks ago, dragged my bum out to the orchards on a sunny, warm September afternoon. It is a bittersweet affair…marking the end of long summer days, knowing that the apples we pick will largely be used to make apple sauce and apple butter, their once red-autumn glory soon tucked away on the pantry shelves for an appearance some cold winter morning in January, February, March.

This year as I steadied the ladder for my son, I remembered my family’s yearly trips to Jones’s orchard and eating too many Winesaps. I loved the way the fruit's tart crisp flesh puckered my cheeks. In the past few years I have taken it upon myself to keep the tradition alive, not just for the handful of pleasant memories the experience gives, but to show the Universe that I will never give up.

It was the day after an apple picking trip five years ago that I was in a car accident. As I was driving to work with my son sitting next to me, another car sped out from a side street and plowed into us. (Yes, it really did feel like I was watching the entire event happen in slow motion.) My son was unscathed, but the rearview mirror had broken off when the windshield shattered. It met with the right side of my face, leaving glass lodged in my eye and cuts and bruises all over my body. For the next few months I wondered if I would ever fully regain the sight in my right eye.

That accident showed me what it’s like to have everything change in an instant, to not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or in a month of tomorrows, to not know if what you thought was your life yesterday will ever be the same again. For me, life wasn’t the same and I have a few nice scars to remind me of that. Sometimes I re-live that moment in my dreams, this time avoiding the oncoming car only to glide gracefully into a waiting telephone pole on the opposite side of the street. I guess someone out there is telling me that this terrible thing that happened to me was unavoidable. That’s fine. It forced me to change, to stop and look at my life and decide what was really important. It showed me who was willing to come to my door and help me through the wreckage, and who wasn’t.

The most important lesson I learned was that there is great clarity in destruction. It’s not evident when you are surrounded by chaos and debris, but it’s there, waiting on the other side of it all.

To the people of Halifax, central Nova Scotia and P.E.I., my heart and thoughts are with you as you begin to resurrect your lives from Sunday night’s hurricane.